Cherubini’s Médée is a French opéra comique (i.e. with spoken dialogue) which premiered in March 1797. It’s based on Euripides by way of Corneille whose Médée of 1635 was written, as one might expect, in alexandrines. So its roots, and the work itself, are very much in the French classical tradition. The complication is that the work is much better known in its Italian version with sung recitatives (not authorised by Cherubini) and has developed as a “show off” vehicle for star sopranos; notably Maria Callas and, more recently, Sondra Radvanovsky. Along the way it’s lost a lot of its classicism and become almost verismo like. So I was intrigued to see how much Guillermo Silva-Marin, in presenting the work “in concert” at the St. Lawrence Centre, would try, and how much he would succeed, in reclaiming the Cherubini of a Paris tipping from revolution to Bonaparte.
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Die Fledermaus revived at TOT
Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at the St. Lawrence Centre yesterday. It’s a revival of their 2018 production and I don’t think my opinion of the production has really changed. The jokes have been updated a bit; mostly to reflect the anticipated imprisonment of a certain former US president (I wish!). But basically the schtick is the same.
All’s well that ends well
VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert presented Mozart’s early opera Lucio Silla yesterday at the St. Lawrence Centre. Inevitably it was in a much reduced version (the original is insanely long) coming in at around two hours and organised into two acts. Tis left the principals with maybe three arias each plus a few ensemble numbers. It was presented off book but with a very minimalist production; piano at the centre of an otherwise empty stage, some atmospheric projections, basic blocking and some sort of hybrid of costume and concert wear. It actually worked rather well. This is very much a “tell” rather than “show” opera and fancy scenic effects weren’t really required.
Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld at the St. Lawrence Centre last night. Guillermo Silva-Marin gives it a pretty conventional treatment with minimal scenery, “Greek” costumes and no big surprises. It’s sung in English which has pros and cons for while the dialogue is intelligible enough the comprehensibility of the sung part is a bit variable.
A Waltz Dream
Oscar Straus’ A Waltz Dream opened last night in a Toronto Operetta theatre production at the St. Lawrence Centre. The piece premiered in Vienna in 1907 and soon became a huge international hit with various English versions appearing quite early on. The version given by TOT appears to be a 1970s version with book by Michael Flanders, Edmund Tracey and Bernard Dunn and the music adapted and arranged by Ronald Hanmer.
The nightingale flies from its gilded cage
Florence: The Lady with the Lamp, music by Timothy Sullivan, libretto by Anne Mcpherson, premiered at the Elora Festival in 1992 and n 1995 was the first Canadian work performed by VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert. Yesterday afternoon they presented it again at the St. Lawrence Centre; staged and with orchestra.
It’s an interesting piece. Some of it I liked a lot and some not so much. The orchestral writing is excellent; colourful and atmospheric with some jazz influences. I quite often found myself drifting off into listening to the orchestra when perhaps I should have paid more attention to the words, especially as there were no surtitles. The vocal writing is less interesting but it had its moments especially in some of the ensembles. It’s the old dilemma of whether or not to prioritise the comprehensibility of the words over strictly musical values. Continue reading
Drink! Drink! Drink!
Oddly enough, what Toronto Operetta Theatre does best is operetta and the production of Romberg’s The Student Prince that opened yesterday afternoon is a pretty good example of why. I suppose, technically, that it’s a Broadway musical but everything about it, down to the humour and sentimentality seems Teutonic enough. Anyway, there’s a solid trio in the lead roles, the key back ups are thoroughly professional and the minor roles and chorus are filled out by talented and enthusiastic young singers. The band is big enough to cover all the colours of the score and the staging is appropriate and not overly ambitious. The piece gets to do its tuneful, rather bittersweet thing.